Mineral Rights Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Mineral Rights, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Mineral Rights?

A claim to the legal rights to the minerals contained in a piece of land.

History and Meaning of Mineral Rights

Mineral rights refer to the ownership of the valuable resources that are found underground and may include ores, oil, and natural gas. Although mineral rights have been a part of real estate laws since ancient times, the term became widely used during the 1800s when mineral deposits were discovered in the United States, and disputes arose over who owned the rights to mine them.

In most cases, mineral rights are separate from surface rights, meaning that the person who owns the land may not own the rights to the minerals that lie beneath it. In some instances, these rights may have been sold or leased by the landowner to a mining company, providing a source of income for the landowner. However, these rights do not necessarily give the holder the right to explore or extract the minerals, as they must also obtain proper permits and follow environmental regulations.

Examples of Mineral Rights

  1. A farmer owns a piece of land that is believed to contain natural gas. He sells the mineral rights to an oil and gas company in exchange for a percentage of the profits from the extraction of the gas.
  2. A real estate developer purchases a piece of land that is known to contain valuable minerals such as gold and silver. They hire a mining company to extract the minerals and sell them for a profit.
  3. A family inherits a piece of land that has been producing oil for decades. They own the mineral rights and continue to lease them to a drilling company to extract the oil.

Legal Terms Similar to Mineral Rights

  1. Water Rights - The ownership and use rights to a body of water, often separate from the surface or mineral rights.
  2. Easements - Grants or limitations on the use of a property that are held by other parties, often related to access or specific uses.
  3. Air Rights - The ownership rights to the space above a property, often used in real estate development to build structures above existing buildings.